Narrow boat lights

A narrow boat should be fitted with navigation lights, on port and starboard sides as well as a wide beam headlamp and a stern light. Any narrow boater who is contemplating night-time cruising (or indeed is likely to navigate through a tunnel on their journey) will need to ensure their narrowboat lights are checked before a cruise.

Narrow boat headlights are often knocked out of alignment in the course of day to day cruising, so many narrow boaters find that that as soon as they enter a tunnel, the beam is pointing anywhere other than where they want it! This is why it is good practice to check your boat any time you know your route will encompass the use of lights. Some water authorities don’t like to promote night time cruising, because in the dark it is so easy to forget to close paddles, and drain the cut.


However, cruising along a moonlit canal is one of the great pleasures of the waterways, and let’s not beat about the bush – narrow boaters of old used to do it regularly.

If you intend cruising for any length of time at night, make sure that your gauges are visible. Many instruments are supplied without bulbs for night time use, and you do not want to be in the middle of a tunnel wondering if your engine is overheating etc, only to find you cannot check it.

3 thoughts on “Narrow boat lights

  1. Andy


    One thing I’ve often been curious about is the legalities of cruising out of hours (Past 20:00 or before 07:00). I’ve heard mixed messages stating that it can result in loss of my CaRT licence to it being allowed but frowned upon. Any clarification on this would be great as I can’t find any info about this on CaRT’s website.

    • Colin Post author

      I’m not surprised you cannot find any clarification Andy! I am unaware of any legal reason why you cannot cruise at night, whatever the time is – in winter, it can be dark at 5pm so restricting cruising to after 8pm would be academic. Many trip boat companies actually advertise evening or night time cruises and don’t contravene any regulations to my knowledge. A common sense approach should be adopted – Locks can be more dangerous in poor visibility so extra care should be taken here. In addition, consider that moored boats may have people sleeping on board so pass very slowly. One final thing to consider – check your boat insurance doesn’t restrict you to daytime only cruising. As there is greater potential to cause damage in restricted visibility, just check there is no clause negating your cover

  2. midnight cowboy

    I got the nickname ‘Midnight Cowboy’ during my first hire boat trip on the Leeds-Liverpool. We had set off from Skipton on the first day in the afternoon – I had boat handling experience but all my crew were novices. After going up the first lock I suddenly found we were grounded mid-cut with wire around the prop – the pound had been made very low by the Skipton Cruising Club going up the locks for the Bank Holiday weekend when water levels were already low. By the time we managed to get up the next lock to the moorings it was nearly 10 pm and very dark. I was told it was not allowed for hire boats to travel after dark. By the time I got back to the hire boat yard I was notorious as they and all along the cut had heard about my exploits and the BW lengthsman referred to me as ‘the midnight cowboy’. Many thought I had been cavalier. There is no general rule forbidding boating after dark, but many hire boat firms make it a rule. I often boat in the dark – taking extra precautions at locks etc.


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